Chef Adam Hayes serves Beard at Red Stag

James Beard. As in recreating the all NC dinner Chef Adam Hayes and his Red Stag team were honored to create and serve September 16th at historic James Beard House, 167 West 12th Street, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood.

“When attending a dinner, guests are first invited to walk through the Beard House kitchen to meet the night’s chef and observe the event team at work. They then enjoy a canapé reception, which takes place throughout the ground floor and in our garden (weather permitting). Diners then climb to the second-floor dining room, where they enjoy a five- to six-course tasting menu with wine pairings. The evening concludes with a question-and-answer session with the chef in the dining room.” ~ Beard Foundation

If you weren’t able to enjoy this dinner at the Beard House, not to worry. Chef Hayes and the same team are currently serving the same dishes at Asheville’s Red Stag Grill, sending 10% of sales back to the James Beard Foundation to help support culinary excellence and education.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Image: The Kessler Collection

I was lucky enough to join a group of supporters and media who were invited to experience the Hayes’ Beard dinner redux Thursday, October 3rd at Red Stag. We gathered in Stag’s luscious, romantically lit Black Forest Wine Room.

Grand Bohemian Wine Room
Image: The Kessler Collection

I’ve included many photos that aren’t my own, because well, they’re beautiful and accurately portray what was served. A few of mine (sporting my logo and name) are included.

Our evening began with a champagne and passed canape reception in the Grand Bohemian’s Art Gallery, just off the lobby. Just as they were served at the Beard House, every one of Chef’s bite-sized creations were delicious!

Coming off as slightly sinful, these croutons brought to mind a grilled pimento cheese sandwich with a gherkin on the side. More sin, please.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Ashe County Pimento Cheese with Pickled Zydeco Farms Gherkins and Juusto Croutons
Image: The Kessler Collection

What would an event featuring NC food be without barbecue? I loved the creativity here, marrying hush puppies and barbecue in one bite. My worry that the barbecue would have a hard time shining through was unfounded.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Heritage Farms Barbecue–Stuffed House-Autry Mills Hush Puppies
Image: The Kessler Collection

My favorite, scrumptious bites of fried green tomato topped with goat cheese and tomato bits. I would have been happy making a meal out of these alone.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Fried Green Tomatoes with Looking Glass Creamery Goat Cheese
Image: The Kessler Collection

It’s a good thing I didn’t because the dinner that followed was Carolina-fabulous!

As we took our seats, a quiet murmur began as heads nodded toward a variety of small jars scattered around the table. Some of them fairly glowed in the room’s low light; Wiley Carter’s honey, NC Mountain Sorghum, chow chow relish, house-made butter, pickles and small bottles of Texas Pete. Hmmm, what would go with this condiment bonanza?

Biscuits and Corn Bread, of course. You biscuit heads out there, ask Chef for his recipe. Gone before I could get a shot, these were honestly the best biscuits I’ve had. And that cast iron skillet served corn bread . . . excellent.

Hayes James Beard Dinner

First Course: Another favorite – Dry Ridge Farms BBQ cured ham with “Got To Be NC” Summer Salad, made with heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, Looking Glass Ridgeline cheese, topped with micro basil. Also on the plate, Theros extra virgin olive oil and a little Celtic sea salt.

So refreshing – a perfect dish for entertaining. Can’t you just picture serving this in warm weather at a ladies luncheon on the veranda?

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Image: The Kessler Collection

Cardinal Gin (Kings Mountain, NC) had been gently blended with house-made Watermelon Tonic and a splash of Basil Water to create the perfect course one accompaniment. Dangerously delicious.

Hayes James Beard Dinner

Second Course: Sunburst Mountain Trout. Greene county sweet potato puree supported a Goldfinch Gardens late summer vegetable ragout, which in turn supported perfectly cooked trout from NC favorite – Sunburst Trout Farms. Also on the plate, hand churned butter sauce. Pea shoots topped everything off.

Hayes James Beard Dinner

A 2011 Shelton Estate (Yadkin Valley) Chardonnay paired nicely with the flaky, yet firm trout.

Hayes James Beard Dinner

Third Course: Chef Hayes announced another Southern staple – Fried Chicken! Guess it’s going to be a leg or breast of exceptionally tasty fried chicken, I thought to myself. Wrong. I’m not sure if this would officially be called a roulade, but that’s what I’m going to call Hayes most wonderful wheel of Ashley Farms Fried Poulet Rouge Chicken

That’s crispy fried okra on top, Old Mill of Guilford white corn grits and pan gravy underneath. The square of Ashe county hoop cheddar was a nice touch, along with new to me – Lively Up Farms collard slaw (peeking out from behind the chicken). Loved the mix of flavors and textures on this plate, Chef.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Image: The Kessler Collection

Chef Hayes explained how he and his team had thought and thought about what drink would go with this chicken dish. They kept coming back to Sweet Tea. If you’re from the South, you know that’s a given. Brainstorm! Wicked Weed Brewing agreed to brew a very special Sweet Tea Saison for the Beard dinner and beyond. Yes, they were perfect together.

Intermezzo: Beautiful to behold and even more beautiful on the tongue, Childress “Starbound” Blueberry Port in Sorbet helped “prepare our palates” for the evening’s final courses.

“Retired NASCAR great, Richard Childress, expresses his continued search for excellence at his winery in the Piedmont region of NC. Crafted from native Rabbit Eye blueberries, this fortified is a fun finish to a serious meal.”

If you’ve never ventured outside the traditional Port realm, as I hadn’t, try this Blueberry Port right now! You’ll love it.

Hayes James Beard Dinner

Fourth Course: Brasstown “NC” Strip Steak. Brasstown owner/patriarch, Steve Whitmire – a larger-than-life, unmistakable presence in his white cowboy hat, was seated across the table. Love the motto for their all natural beef: “Real Beef – Raised Right – Around Here”.

As the heartiest protein of the evening, it was presented simply with heirloom tomatoes and Blue Ridge Cave aged Gorgonzola, a little Theros olive oil and Farm Fresh Ventures micro arugula. Simple, yet portioned generously, this also could have made a meal for me.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Image: The Kessler Collection

Paired with the dry, medium-bodied red blend (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot), 2009 McRitchie “Ring of Fire”, the strip steaks flavor stood out even more.

“Our tribute to the Man in Black, this proprietary blend of Bordeaux varietals -Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc – features flavors of dark cherry, red currant, and clove. Rich, supple fruit and integrated tannins lend themselves to this easy to love wine. Excellent with red meats, wood-fired pizza, and grilled vegetables.” ~ McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks

Fifth Course: Apple Pie. The Southern way – with Pork Belly. A conglomeration (somehow not a good word to use when describing dessert) of products from many of my personal favorite producers: Carriage House brandied Henderson County Gala apples, sorghum glazed Heritage Farms pork belly, Troy and Sons oak reserve and honey gastrique, Imladris apple butter, topped with a lattice shortbread cookie and served with The Hop’s praline cream.

Yes, pork belly, apples and ice cream. The consummate sweet finish to our NC meal, I appreciated the modest portion.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Image: The Kessler Collection

A lovely flute of 2013 Noble Hard Cider went perfectly with dessert. A new favorite sparkly.

Pictured below are, from left to right, are the Red Stag at Grand Bohemian troika of tasty: General Manager John Luckett, Executive Chef Adam Hayes, and Food and Beverage Manager Jeff Congdon.

Hayes James Beard Dinner
Image: The Kessler Collection

Don’t forget, you can experience these dishes for your self at the Red Stag this month. Enjoy!

Epicurean Note: Artist Colleen Webster’s new works will debut at the Grand Bohemian Gallery in a few days. She’s been painting a series of Asheville restaurant scenes for her exhibit and included our dinner. I’m second seat in, on the left. Look for Steve in his cowboy hat on the right.

Red Stag Menu

Red Stag Grill, Grand Bohemian Hotel
11 Boston Way
Asheville, NC 28803
(828) 398-5600